American History 101: Who Won the Civil War?

The Civil War was a conflict between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America between 1861 and 1865. The conflict centered on the disagreement of the legality of slavery and the rights of slaves.

A Brief Background The Confederate States of America, known as the Confederacy, consisted of 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union to protect the institution of slavery. The United States, known as the Union, was governed by President Abraham Lincoln, who refused to accept the Confederacy as a sovereign entity. This led to the four-year American Civil War that claimed 620,000 lives, according to the Civil War Trust. The Civil War was largely fought in Virginia and Tennessee, with additional battles occurring in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and New Mexico.

The Impact of Slavery Until the 1800s, slavery was legal in all parts of the U.S., although the highest concentration of slaves was in the South, where they primarily performed farm labor. The economy in the South depended heavily on agriculture, whereas the Northern economy was largely industrial by nature. The Southern states feared the Northern abolitionists would deem slavery illegal across the country, which led Southern leaders of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia to create their own nation.

The Civil War Begins The first shots of the Civil War occurred at Fort Sumter, which was held at the time by the federal government. As Union troops were resupplying the fort, Confederate troops fired artillery in a siege that lasted for two days until the surrender of Sumter‰Ûªs commander, Major Robert Anderson, notes History.

Union Advantages The Union had a larger population and larger stocks of war gear than the Confederacy. At the outbreak of the war, the Union had a population of 22 million people, while the South had a population of nine million, of which 45 percent were slaves, according to the Civil War Trust. The Northern states were also largely more technologically advanced, had better infrastructure and had more money to support their efforts. The majority of firearms was manufactured in the Northern states, a dilemma that the South attempted to overcome by trading with Europe. The North quickly put a stop to this idea by using naval blockades. Although the Southern soldiers were skilled, the sheer numbers of the Northern armies were a contributing factor in their defeat, as reported by History.

The End of the War The war concluded on April 10, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. Following his surrender, he wrote a letter to his troops stating that, due to overwhelming resources and numbers, the war could not be won, notes History Today. While these were large contributing factors, Civil War leadership also contributed to the Union’s triumph. Because the Confederacy was so much larger geographically than the Union, the war was fought on the Southern side largely on defense. The idea was that the South only needed to protect its territory rather than invade the North and wait until the will of the Union decreased. General Lee, however, emphasized offensive attacks in order to gain momentum. This strategy led to massive losses on the battlefield in the early years and decreased the South’s morale. The will of the Union also remained strong throughout the war years. The political will of the Union, the leadership of the Confederacy and the lopsided numbers all but ensured the defeat of the South, according to History.